A noisy workplace isn’t all that great for your ears (or your concentration, for that matter). The health of your hearing can be negatively affected by even moderate levels of noise if you’re exposed to it for several hours each day. That’s why it’s pretty smart to start asking questions like, “what level of hearing protection do I need”?
Most of us probably didn’t even know there were numerous levels of hearing protection. But when you take a moment to think about it, it makes sense. A truck driver won’t require the same level of protection that a jet engine mechanic will.
Hearing Damage Levels
The basic rule of thumb is that 85 decibels (dB) of sound can start damaging your ears. Putting sound into context with regards to its decibel level and how harmful it is, isn’t something the majority of us are used to doing.
Eighty-five decibels is approximately how loud city traffic is when you’re driving your car. No biggie, right? Wrong, it’s a big deal. It becomes a big deal after several hours. Because the frequency and duration of exposure are extremely significant when it comes to damaging noise exposure.
Typical Danger Zones
It’s time to consider ear protection if you’re exposed to noise at 85 dB or more for 8 hour days. But there are a few other important thresholds to take note of. If you’re exposed to:
- 90 dB (e.g., lawnmower): Anything above four hours will be harmful to your ears.
- 100 dB (e.g., power tools): Anything over one hour will be harmful to your ears.
- 110 dB (e.g., leaf blower): Anything above fifteen minutes is considered damaging to your hearing.
- 120 dB (e.g., rock concert): Any exposure can cause damage to your hearing.
- 140 dB (e.g., jet engine): This amount of noise will lead to instant damage and probably pain to your ears.
When you’re going to be exposed to these volumes of noise, wear hearing protection that will bring the decibels in your ears down below 85 dB.
Make Sure Your Hearing Protection Fits Comfortably
The effectiveness of ear protection is measured by something called a Noise Reduction Rate, or NRR. The outside world will become progressively quieter the higher the NRR.
The majority of workplaces will have recommendations as to what level of protection will keep your ears safe because it’s important to have the right protection.
But there’s another aspect to think about also: comfort. It’s very essential that your hearing protection is comfortable to use if you want to keep your hearing safe. This is because you’re less likely to actually use your hearing protection if it’s uncomfortable.
Hearing Protection Options
There Are Basically Three Options:
- Earplugs that sit just outside of the ear canal.
- In-ear earplugs
Each form of protection has advantages and disadvantages, but personal preference is often the deciding factor. Earmuffs are the best choice for individuals whose ears are irritated by earplugs. For other individuals, the ability to put earplugs in and leave them in is a better solution (obviously, you won’t want to forget them for too long… you should take them out at the end of your workday. And clean them).
Consistently Use Protection That Works Best For You
Comfort is significant because any lapse in your hearing protection can result in damage. If earmuffs are scratchy and uncomfortable you’re more likely to remove them for short periods and that can have a negative impact on your hearing over time. So the most important decision you can make is to select hearing protection that you’re comfortable leaving in place during your workday.
You’re ears will remain healthier and happier if you find the correct level of hearing protection for your circumstance.